The rate of adoption of telehealth services in any jurisdiction is frequently influenced by factors such as the adequacy and cost of existing conventional health services in meeting patient needs; the policies of governments and/or insurers with respect to coverage and payment for telehealth services; and medical licensing requirements that may inhibit or deter the provision of telehealth second opinions or primary consultations by physicians.
One of the biggest advantages of telehealth services is easy access to on-demand care. During a telemedicine consultation, a physician can inquire about symptoms, discuss treatment and determine whether a prescription is necessary. More importantly, for patients who don’t have a reliable means of transportation or who struggle with mobility challenges or disabilities that make traveling difficult, remote access can be a huge quality of life improvement. This is especially true for those living with chronic conditions for which frequent checkups are necessary. Telehealth services are also helping to fill healthcare gaps faced by rural communities across the United States — in areas where patients may have to drive for hours to get to the nearest hospital or specialist.
Without a doubt, the emergency room is one of the most expensive, overcrowded, and stressful environments in healthcare. With telemedicine, overcrowded emergency rooms can be reduced by having patients see a remote physician using video chat first. The remote physician can determine if that individual should seek care in an emergency department, which increases ED efficiency.
From the late 1800s to the early 1900s the early foundations of wireless communication were laid down. Radios provided an easier and near instantaneous form of communication. The use of radio to deliver healthcare became accepted for remote areas. The Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia is an example of the early adoption of radios in telehealth.
Several decades later, in the 1950’s, a few hospital systems and university-based medical centers experimenting with how to put concept of telemedicine into practice. Medical staff at two different health centers in Pennsylvania about 24 miles apart transmitted radiologic images via telephone. In 1950’s, a Canadian doctor built upon this technology into a Teleradiology system that was used in and around Montreal. Then, in 1959, Doctors at the University of Nebraska were able to transmit neurological examinations to medical students across campus via a two-way interactive television. By 1964, they had built a telemedicine link that allowed them to provide health services at Norfolk State Hospital, 112 miles away from campus.
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Applications of telehealth in physical therapy already have roots that expand throughout patient/client care and consultation, as it allows PTs to better communicate with patients/clients and provide more flexible care. Telehealth will not replace traditional clinical care. However, it will give PTs and PTAs the flexibility to provide services in a greater capacity. Examples:
Telehealth has emerged as a critical tool in providing health care services.  The practice covers a broad range of medical technology and services that collectively define the discipline. Telehealth is especially beneficial for patients who live in rural communities and other remote areas where medical professionals use the Internet to gather and share information as well as monitor the health conditions of patients by using peripheral equipment and software such as video conferencing devices, store-and-forward imaging, and streaming media. The following information details important factors that are shaping this burgeoning field.
Roy Schoenberg, the CEO of American Well, believes that doctors, insurers and employers will increasingly inform their patients about the option to use telemedicine, which will help consumers get over many of their fears. If they've already got a relationship with that doctor, a virtual consult might seem like an easier alternative to getting across town to a doctor's office and sitting in a waiting room.
Healthcare systems, policymakers, vendors, and providers alike can attest to the many gray areas within telemedicine. One particular area that requires more clarity is the legalities surrounding telemedicine. With it being an industry that is constantly growing, it has become difficult to create a concrete solution. In addition, each state follows different laws for telemedicine, which makes it increasingly difficult to keep up with it.
With telehealth allowing physicians to expand their coverage area, there have been questions regarding interstate medical licensing. Interstate medical licensing permits more physicians to serve individuals in underserved and rural areas, but currently, only a few states offer this. The Interstate Medical Licensure Compact helps streamline the licensing process for physicians that are interested in practising in participating states.
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